Al Pacino: 7 of the Actor’s Most Memorable and Iconic Performances

April 21, 2022

When you think of iconic actors, who is the first to come to mind? Now this question can obviously vary with respect to one’s personal opinion. For us, Al Pacino certainly fits that bill. He’s been in a number of movies since the 1970s, and more than a few of them are some of the most unforgettable movies you’ll ever see. If you’re in need of some proof as to why Pacino should be considered iconic, our list below showcases some of the most memorable performances he’s given over the course of his career. With that, let’s get to convincing.

Devil’s Advocate

In this film, Pacino co-starred with the equally legendary Keanu Reeves. Both work at a well-established law firm in New York City, but Pacino’s character is not only Reeves’ boss, he is quite literally, The Devil. Interesting as that premise might be, you might be scratching your head right about now. It’s possible you’re wondering, “oh, this is supposed to be about Pacino, why aren’t we talking about a movie where he alone is the big star?” Arguably, one of the qualities of being the best of the best is one’s ability to work with fellow actors and play off one another to deliver the performance of a lifetime. This was one of those performances as their synergy was just on another level.


This entry can make the list based on the sole fact that it is widely regarded as a cult classic. Scarface tells the story of a Cuban immigrant named Tony Montana, who makes his way over to the United States to try to make a name for himself. Montana achieves this but in doing so, he also becomes one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Miami. This is one of the movies where you see get to see Al Pacino (famously) really go over the top. From the story’s theme that power corrupts all to the bloody violence that was a staple of the 1980s, the film is just pure iconic material, all thanks to Pacino’s work.


Serpico is one of those movies that fits a bill, the good kind. In a one-man versus the whole system set-up, Al Pacino’s Frank Serpico is the only New York City detective that’s willing to do what’s right in the face of widespread corruption. However, with Pacino at the helm as its star, this seemingly simple premise quickly becomes one of the actor’s most unforgettable films. Unlike the entry that came before, Pacino’s role in this film is more nuanced, showing he has the chops to do more than just go over the top. It only serves to further attest to the actor’s status as an icon. 

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story (Serpico too by the way), Dog Day Afternoon follows Sonny, a first-time bank robber who attempts to steal from a bank in order to pay for his partner’s sex-change operation. The situation spirals out of control when it becomes a hostage situation and a full-blown media circus. Despite how potentially “wrong” this film could have gone, as always, Pacino gave it his all, delivering a truly passionate performance that made the movie great.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross Horizontal Movie Poster

This film is credited with having many impeccable performances. The movie essentially follows the story of a group of real estate salesmen doing their thing. Among these phenomenal portrayals we see in the movie, there is only one actor who received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in this movie. Can you guess who that was? Yep, if you guessed Pacino, you guessed right. Though he didn’t get the award, it is still worth mentioning that out of all the superstar performances viewed in the movie, only one guy came close to getting the Oscar. If that doesn’t say something about Al Pacino’s work as an actor, I don’t know what does. 



Heat is an incredible film by and by. In a nutshell, it pits Al Pacino as LAPD detective Vincent Hanna in a cops and robbers match against Roberto Deniro’s Neil McCauley, a shrewd and conniving criminal mastermind. The tension in this movie never lets up, and it’s all thanks to the antagonistic chemistry between these two actors’ characters. By the time you reach the end of Heat, you simply can’t help but appreciate Pacino even more than you did before.

The Godfather & The Godfather Part II

We’re going to lump these two together since he’s playing the same character, but it is worth mentioning that many hold The Godfather Part II to be the better of the two in terms of the actor’s performance. In what are considered some of the most iconic movies known to cinema, Pacino brings nothing short of his A-game to the character of Michael Corleone. It’s really the first time you fall in love with the guy as an actor because in these two movies you see it all: nuance, going over the top if ever so briefly. Pacino had spectacular material to work with. His acting in these movies is indisputably the pinnacle of his achievements.

We ask you once more esteemed readers when someone asks you about iconic actors, whose name is the first that comes to mind? Hopefully, we’ve done a good job of convincing you that Pacino is that first name and we hope you enjoyed the read!